East Lansing — It's hard to imagine that five years ago, there was a web site dedicated to getting Pat Narduzzi fired.
Granted, firepatnarduzzi.blogspot.com contains all of one post and it came in the wake of Michigan State's 38-30 loss at Wisconsin in 2009. But the fact there were any fans that wanted to see the defensive coordinator sent packing is hard to fathom.
The last four seasons, Narduzzi has turned the Spartans defense into one of the best in the nation, and after last season when they finished No. 2 in the country in total defense, he earned the Frank Broyles Award given to the top assistant.
During that span, Michigan State has won 11 or more games three times and two Big Ten titles.
"Coach Narduzzi and how we function as a defense is extremely important in terms of how we play overall," coach Mark Dantonio said. "I don't care whether it's this football game or another football game, and we've had a lot of success here because of it."
This football game is, of course, Michigan State's matchup against rival Michigan. And coming off last season when the Spartans limited the Wolverines to minus-48 yards rushing, there is little doubt Narduzzi will be focused on trying to match that effort.
That process began at practice Tuesday.
"Every Michigan week he's always amped up," senior linebacker Taiwan Jones said. "He's always enthusiastic, has high energy, and we kind of feed off of him through practice."
That energy, however, is on display every week, his players insist.
"You guys pretty much see him in the fourth quarter of any game," defensive end Shilique Calhoun said.
"There is nothing different from that. He always has passion for the game. His attitude never changes towards any team. He wants to win and he wants perfection.
"So I'm not going to say that he's not excited for this game, because I'm pretty sure he is. But from what I've seen over the years, he's been excited for every game."
It's hard to doubt that considering the defense's track record. They have been No. 1 in the Big Ten the last three seasons, and since 2011, the Spartans are one of four FBS teams to rank in the top 10 in total defense every year.
That success has not gone unnoticed as Narduzzi, also the assistant head coach, continues to be among the first names that pops up each year when jobs open around the country. Last year, after Michigan State's Rose Bowl victory, he was offered the Connecticut job before turning it down.
He also reportedly was considered at Louisville.
"He was offered positions, OK? Not just one," Dantonio said before this season. "But what I've tried to do is make it very apparent to our coaches that they have a great place to be, a great working environment. And I'm gonna empower them as coaches.
"When the time comes for them to leave, they should leave for the right job."
There seems to be little doubt that eventually will happen for Narduzzi, even after he was given a raise during the offseason that pushed his annual salary close to $1 million.
But he's also not leaving for just any job, and there is always the possibility he could remain at Michigan State until Dantonio decides to step down.
"Pat wants to be a head football coach," Dantonio said. "He wants to be a head football coach at the BCS level, and I think he wants to do that at one of the major conferences. But it's got to be the right situation. And right now, from the standpoint of his salary, it's gonna have to be a BCS job."
And, with Michigan State among the nation's leaders — eighth in rushing defense, ninth in total defense, fourth in turnovers — it might come sooner rather than later.
Where Michigan State's defense ranks in the NCAA:
Total: 9th (292.7 yards)
Rush: 8th (100.3 yards)
Pass: 19th (192.4 yards)
Sacks: T-4th (3.21 average)
Third down: 3rd (25.3 percent)